Features Interviews Finding Mariko

Finding Mariko

Finding Mariko
Article by: Pete Nema

Up front at the stage at the Rivoli, I'm photographing bands during Canadian Music Week when I spark up a conversation with the woman next to me who seems to be having a great time. She's never seen the band before, but I can tell she loves music, and we chat a bit. Like many people I meet, she's a musician and her name is Mariko.

Later the same month, she sent me her EP and it wasn't quite what I was expecting. I listened, listened again, and I liked it. Mariko has yet to return to Toronto, but we've kept in touch via social networks and email, and I recently spoke with her about her music and what she has been up to this year.

Sticky: You have an interesting look, what's your heritage?

Mariko: I was born in Tokyo, but moved to America when I was 5 because my parents got divorced. My dad stayed in Japan since that's where he's from... my mom moved my siblings and I to Brookline, which is outside of Boston. I love Boston, I'd love to raise my kids there someday.

Sticky: On the surface, you could easily be labelled a "singer-songwriter", but from what I've heard, your music doesn't match that label. What influences and inspries you?

Mariko: I write majority of my songs about personal experiences. Whenever I try to write lyrics for a new song and they don't just come organically, the song just doesn't have the same spark. Obviously, listening to music inspires my sound... I'm mostly into alternative rock. But I think it's important for musicians to be open-minded and listen to all genres, which I do happily.

Sticky: We originally met during Canadian Music Week earlier this year, you were checking out some good Canadian talent, and we spoke about watching bands elvove. How have you seen you and your music evolve recently?

Mariko: When I was yonger, I used to write teenybopper songs. But over the past year, I feel much edgier, like my songs are more dynamic and with more interesting content. I've experienced bigger complications in my life over the past couple of years than when I was younger, so that is definitely shaping my writing. The rock presence in my new material is more evident too. I think there should always be growth and change in your music.

Sticky: Over the summer we kept in touch and you mentioned that you were picked up for a few dates on Warped Tour 2012. How was that experience?

Mariko: Warped Tour was a lot of fun! I played two dates, both of them in New York and it was definitely an enlightening experience. All of the bands were so approachable and super nice. It's always a great feeling when you meet bands and artists that you admire and it turns out they're not assholes! But the fans surprised me a bit. While they were waiting in line, I went around asking if they wanted to listen to my EP for free, but it's amazing how difficult it was to get people to even give me a shot. I know it's impossible for everyone to like your music, but I just figured since they were music fans they'd probably be interested in hearing something new. The people who were open to it were very complimentary, which was nice. Overall, I really enjoyed playing and meeting the fans and bands. Regardless, it was a great opportunity and I'm very grateful that I was given it.

Sticky: You also mentioned that you play a lot of music conferences. What do you think musicians can gain by attending these?

Mariko: Yeah, I've played quite a few... my favorite is the Yellow Phone Music Conference in Wisconsin. A lot of important people in the music industry go to it, and it gives unknown bands and acts the opportunity to get noticed by the industry. Most music conferences have so many bands showcasing that industry people only go to the ones that have huge buzz, but YPMC gives attention to everyone, making it easier for the lesser-known artists to meet with these people. It's just a good experience.

Sticky: If you could collaborate with any artist or band who would it be?

Mariko: Wow, I would love to work with Company of Thieves or Paramore. I have a deep respect and passion for both of them. I don't know if our collaboration would sound great, having two front female vocals might clash, but maybe it would sound awesome? Who knows, but I'd love to find out! Even just opening for one of them would be a dream come true. Wanna give me their contact info so we can make this happen? (laughs)

Sticky: I see so many artists, and in speaking with them and hearing about all the hassles associated with the music industry, I sometimes wonder what keeps them motivated. How does that work for you?

Mariko: Playing in front of people always inspires me. Seeing that they're enjoying my music and connecting with me is the most amazing feeling in the world. I really believe in my talent and like many musicians, I just can't imagine doing anything else. In fact, the pressure of doing something else motivates me to keep working toward a successful music career. I don't know what else I would do if I didn't do music. I honestly wish I didn't have such a strong passion for it, maybe life would be a lot simpler if I could be a chef or an accountant, but I don't want to waste my talent. The idea of wasting anything bothers me.

Sticky: Everyone in my family has an animal associated with them. If your family did the same thing, what would your animal be?

Mariko: I would probably want to be a dolphin because they're social and super smart. Who doesn't like those qualities? Also, look what they eat... who doesn't like sushi?

Sticky: What's the strangest thing you've encountered while playing music?

Mariko: I've encountered a lot of strange things while playing music, but here's one that sticks out: I like to promote myself whenever I have free time... in parks, near public transportation, or outside of concerts, etc. This one time I was promoting outside of a Coldplay concert and this homeless guy really loved my music. He heckled people who would to stop and listen but not buy my CDs, calling them "cheap asses", and shouting randomly that I sound like Mariah Carey (which I don't think is true at all). I have to say that was one of the wierdest, amusing, and touching things.

Sticky: Any plans to come back to Toronto?

Mariko: Not yet, but I'll let you know. People can always find out about upcoming events and shows on my website or my Facebook page.

Info: Mariko
Connect: Facebook
Music: iTunes
Video: "On With The Show"